WSDOT prepares to attack daily chokepoint in Everett on SR 526
Northbound I-5 getting between south Everett and Highway 2 is a cause of one of our region’s daily backups due to the volume of traffic coming from Paine Field and Mukilteo on State Route 526.
Those living around Paine Field know all too well when to avoid SR 526. It usually comes at the end of the traditional first shift at Boeing, a little after 2 p.m. each day. The eastbound lanes jam up on the single lane flyover ramp to I-5 northbound. That steady stream of cars then backs up I-5, and the congestion is on.
In pre-COVID traffic counts, 74,000 cars a day use that stretch, which is just too much for 526 and I-5 to handle.
The Washington Department of Transportation has been studying the area for years, and it was considering a complete makeover of the corridor. But studies showed it was really just the eastbound direction, heading toward I-5 that had the daily issues.
“We focused our attention really on what eastbound improvements could we make,” WSDOT’s Kris Olsen said.
The state has settled on the final plans and have begun a virtual open house to share with the community.
There are five specific projects they will be doing to improve the corridor. Contractors will build a new eastbound lane between Seaway Boulevard and I-5. They will widen the Seaway Boulevard eastbound on-ramp to 526. They will improve the signal operations at the SR 526/SR 527 intersection. They will add a ramp meter to the flyover ramp to I-5, and will lengthen the on ramp to northbound I-5 for those coming from the Everett Mall area.
Olsen said this plan is also trying to address another key problem in the area: the cut-through traffic through neighborhoods. There are a lot of new apartments and neighborhoods in the area and several schools.
The improvements also have an eye on future development.
“We looked at how this was going to mesh with transit needs and future light rail,” Olsen said. “This is all part of a much bigger picture.”
The state already has the money for these improvements. Design and environmental work will get underway next year. The construction is expected to begin in 2022 and finish the following year.
Olsen said these improvements will be necessary, even if Boeing continues to cut its Everett plant work force in the future. She says there is more than enough growth in the area to require these changes.
Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.